After watching a Unicef commercial on TV, I told Xia (my seven year old daughter), that I really want to save a dying child. I really want to help a child and not simply send a donation without knowing what happened to it and did it actually save that kid in the commercial.
Suddenly a face floated across my mind, she was one of my many maids!
The day I hired her, a tall, thin lanky lady with protruding cheekbones and that typical pigmentation on her cheeks and nose (often happens to ladies in pregnancy).
Now I forget her name! And I do not want to call her by any other!
She was standing at my doorstep, looked quite sad and malnourished but had a brilliant smile on her face. It was that smile that started our relationship. I quickly hired her without checking any of her details. I was in a desperate need for a maid after Xia’s birth and there was too much work with very little help around.
The day she arrived she ate and she just ate! I thought probably that was a meal in many days! She was quick in her work and eager to help. Few days later I chatted her up and I got to know that she lived in the nearby Basti (a slum dwelling) and was abandoned by her family. Why? Cause her husband and in-laws wanted a boy child and she was a mother of two daughters! Where are they? I mean the daughters, I asked her… she had left them with her sister and had come to Delhi to work. She lived alone in the Basti in a small rented home. All this sounded very typical to me. This is what happens all the time, with poor people; was all that I thought.
What’s are your daughter’s names? “Katrina and Kareena,” she smiled! I smiled back and got back to changing Xia’s diapers.
Slowly the eagerness and briskness was turning into lethargy and slackness. All her vigor was thinning away. I often found her napping and now she looked healthier, with stomach bloating. Mamma (my mom in-law) came home visiting and she mentioned that my maid seems quite healthy than what she was! Even I realized the change in her… slowly that stomach grew bigger and bigger in the next two months! That ringed a bell! Is she pregnant? Yes she was, I had to confront her and the story spilled out that she was pregnant for the third time and that was the reason her leaving home. She feared that if it were a daughter again than she definitely knew that her in-laws would kill her little one! To escape this she had come to the Basti.
I did not know what to do? How can I hire a pregnant lady to help with my baby? Soon she will have hers! It’s not fare to make her work hard. She needs rest but she needs money too. If I ask her to leave she will work someplace else and probably even harder. I did not know what to do? She was seven months!
After a lot of contemplation and reluctance, I decided, she needs to go. I called her and made her understand that she needs to rest and not work so hard; her baby needs to be healthier. I gave her money, much more for her to survive till her delivery and asked her to go. Told her that she can always walk back once her baby and she are fit! She cried and howled, she did not want to go but I had to.
She was long forgotten and I got another maid from the same Basti, Asha, a cute chubby girl of sixteen. Asha and Xia bonded well. They often went to the park for a stroll in the afternoon.
One such afternoon our guard called up asking that there was a lady at the gate, crying and she wanted to meet me. Perplexed I asked the guard to send her up. The bell rang and there “She” was, once again. This time a tear rolling down her cheek but the brilliant smile was still there! She said the only person that came to her mind was me! My daughter is dying please help me!
I do not know what happened to me, I grabbed her hand, and walked straight to my car and asked my driver to take us to her Basti! I was in my pajamas and my driver was clueless. We kept meandering the small lanes of the never ending Basti. She kept directing my driver and it just did not end. Finally we were out of the Basti in the open fields and there on the outskirts were some ruins and broken huts… she asked to park the car there. I asked her where is your child … in that ruins. I ran inside that hut and there lay a small girl child wrapped up in an old sari. The child was not moving. She just lay there motionless. I feared she was dead. Her mother ran and shook her up… finally the child started moving and whimpering! I sighed!
The child looked like any of those poster babies that ask for donations to save a child! Malnourished, boney with big hungry eyes! Very easy to conjure up an image!
We quickly sat in the car and sped to closest clinic near my home. I walked into the reception and when I was asked for the patients name I was just going say Xia and then I realized that this time it was not my little one but somebody else’s. I did not know her name? We just wrote baby in the registration form.
I quickly ran up to my pediatrician. She asked to calm down. She looked at the baby and clenched her nose. I realized that there was a stink from the wrapped sari, probably it was not washed for a long time and the baby had diarrhea. The baby had no nappy, no diaper. She had soiled the sari. The doctor asked the nurse to clean her up and she quickly gave her saline and some antibiotics! The baby slept peacefully.
My pediatrician pulled me aside, she asked me who’s child was that? I realized that my maid was still in the car with my driver. She was too scared to come up with me, in that fancy looking clinic. I explained to the doctor that she was my maid’s daughter. My doctor questioned me that why did I come to this hospital? I could simply take this child to the nearby government hospital! Government Hospital? Where was that? I did not know, and why not this place? She said that its foolish of me to spend money on this child, such kids do not survive for long!
By this time my maid had gathered courage to come up with my driver. The doctor advised her to take good care of her child’s hygiene and medicines.
I bought all the prescribed medicines from the pharmacy and handed them to my maid.
Few hours later I dropped my maid back to her Basti with her soundly sleeping child and gave her some money that would keep her going for some months.
I just sat in my car and meandered out of the Basti!